When it comes to building strength one of the most common questions people ask me if it is good to do machines, and if so which ones?
This question always makes me laugh because it sounds like something out of the Terminator.
The bottom line is if you are looking to lose weight and build strength free weights such as dumb bells, kettle bells, barbells and even our own body weight are better options over machines.
Lifting free weights require us force us to use more muscle groups than just the ones performing the movement in order keep our core and other joints stable.
Unlike machines which have us move on fixed planes and often times isolate a certain muscle group, Free allow us to move freely and train muscle groups and chains of muscle groups that allow us to mimic real life movements.
The thing is it can take a while to get proficient at free weight movements, and one wrong movement can lead to an injury.
This is where machines have the upper hand.
I believe machines are great for people just starting out and need to build strength.
Free weights have the ability to move all over the place if you lack proper form or joint stability. One bad rep where the weight is not controlled can lead to muscle tweaks and tears.
Machines operate on fixed patterns which work to stabilize the weight for you, keeping you safer.
The fixed pattern offers a low learning curve to strength building as well. Most machines are very easy to hop on and start going to work on with very little coaching required.
Everyone’s goal should be to work up to performing exercises with free weight. The problem is because machines are easier people stick with them and perform the same movements and never progress.
The lack of progression will cause you to plateau regardless if you are looking to lose weight or build strength.
If you are just starting out with strength training I suggest you start with a combination of machine exercises and body weight stability exercises. This will help to build strength while building core and joint stability for free weights.
Here is a sample beginner full body machine workout can follow to work their way up to free weights.
A1)3×10 Leg press
A2) :30 plank hold
(super set these two movements)
B1) 3×10 Chest press
B2) :30 wall sit
C2):30 lunge hold each side